What is the book value of a car?

    Understanding the value of a car is crucial when buying or selling a vehicle. But how do you know what your car is worth?

    One method is to go by the book. Your car’s book value refers to its estimated worth according to reputable vehicle reference guides. A vehicle’s book value serves as a benchmark for negotiations and provides insight into a fair price range. 

    While this one estimate of value does not take supply or demand into account, it’s a helpful reference point to use in considering how much your investment is worth.

    What is book value?

    money and a small car
    The book value of your vehicle is its estimated valuation according to reference guides.

    In the UK, ‘book value’ refers to the estimated worth of a vehicle according to reference guides. This valuation is based on factors like age, mileage, condition, depreciation, and add on features. 

    Similar to the famed Kelly Blue Book in the United States, the trio of Glass’s Guide, Parker’s Guide, and CAP Automotive are the preferred vehicle valuation guides in the UK.

    If you’re buying or selling a car, knowing book value helps in:

    ✅ Fair pricing – Knowledge of the book value helps prevent overpaying or underselling a car, enabling buyers and sellers to negotiate based on realistic market values.

    ✅ Transaction transparency – Book value provides a fair valuation to both vehicle buyers and sellers, ensuring that both parties have access to reliable information to negotiate confidently.

    ✅ Mastering the market – Understanding the book value takes away some of the mystery of market trends and vehicle depreciation rates, which helps buyers and sellers make informed decisions.

    ✅ Risk management – Book value helps mitigate the risk of financial loss by ensuring that vehicle transactions are based on accurate valuations, rather than speculative pricing.

    Calculating car book value

    In the UK, there are several vehicle reference guides outlining the book value of cars and vans. Each details the book value of a vehicle based on its make and model. 

    Take a drive through of the top three:

    • 🚘 Glass’s Guide – One of the country’s most trusted sources for vehicle valuations, Glass’s Guide provides comprehensive data on a wide range of vehicles, including cars, vans, and motorcycles. This guide is widely used by dealerships, insurers, and financial institutions, adding to its credibility.
    • 🚘 Parker’s Guide – Parker’s Guide offers extensive information on new and used cars, including valuations, reviews, and buying advice based on real-world market data. Parker’s Guide also offers tools and resources for car buyers, such as car reviews and expert opinions, to assist them in making informed decisions.
    • 🚘 CAP Automotive – Using detailed market analysis, CAP Automotive provides accurate and up-to-date vehicle valuations. Trusted by auto industry professionals, CAP offers subscription-based services with additional features such as residual value forecasts and market intelligence reports.

    Alternatively, you can estimate the book value of your vehicle by:

    ✏️ Seeking professional appraisal – Ask a professional appraiser, such as a mechanic or automotive expert, to determine your van or car’s book value. These professionals will assess the vehicle’s condition and provide an appraisal based on their expertise and market knowledge.

    ✏️ Calculating price depreciation – Traditional methods often involve calculating depreciation based on the vehicle’s initial cost and estimated lifespan. This number is then subtracted from the original price to determine the book value.

    ✏️ Conducting a market comparison – Another approach is to compare your vehicle to similar models currently available in the market. Similar models will most likely have a similar book value.

    Factors influencing book value

    man looking under an SUV
    Your car’s book value is impacted by factors ranging from age to maintenance history.

    Vehicle age and mileage

    As a car ages, its book value tends to decrease due to wear-and-tear, technological advancements in newer models, and changes in consumer preferences, among other factors. 

    Age is often associated with increased mileage, which can also contribute to lower book value as many see it as a sign of potential mechanical wear. Conversely, low-mileage vehicles often command higher prices due to their perceived longevity and reduced wear-and-tear.

    Condition and maintenance history

    The overall condition of the vehicle and its maintenance history are also crucial components in a car’s book value. A well-maintained car typically has a higher book value compared to one in poor condition. 

    Having a record of a car’s services, maintenance, and repairs can significantly influence its value. This paperwork assures consumers that the vehicle is safe and roadworthy, positively affecting its price on the resale market. 

    Market demand

    Market demand also influences the book value of cars. Location, emissions standards, and shifting consumer preferences all inform what cars drivers are looking for in your area – which can look very different from other parts of the UK. Increased demand for a particular model or type of vehicle can significantly affect its price. 

    Seasonality and weather conditions also shape demand and, consequently, car book values. Convertible cars may be in higher demand during the summer, leading to increased book values, while four-wheel-drive vehicles may be more sought after in winter.

    While book value is important, market demand at the time of sale can often have an even greater impact on vehicle resale price. 

    Book value vs. market value

    Don’t get confused! Your vehicle’s book value is different than its market value in several key ways: 

    AspectBook valueMarket value
    DefinitionEstimated value of a car by a reputable valuation organisation.Current worth of a car in the marketplace, influenced by supply, demand, and other market factors.
    Determining factors– Vehicle age
    – Mileage
    – Overall condition
    – Maintenance history
    – Market depreciation trends
    All of the determining book value factors, as well as: 
    – Market supply and demand
    – Seasonality
    – Economic conditions
    – Location
    Flexibility of stated valueRelatively static; based on standardised valuation methods and historical dataVariable and subject to change based on market dynamics, buyer preferences, and external factors
    Impact on pricingProvides a benchmark for negotiations and serves as a reference point for buyers and sellers.Directly impacts the actual selling price of a car, often resulting in fluctuations over time.


    How do you calculate the book value of a car?

    Typically done by professional valuation guides or online tools, calculating a vehicle’s book value involves assessing a car’s age, mileage, condition, and depreciation trends.

    What is the difference between book value and market value?

    The difference lies in their evaluation methods: book value is based on specific vehicle attributes and depreciation, while market value fluctuates with supply, demand, and external factors. See our above breakdown for more.

    What if book value is higher than market value?

    If the book value exceeds the market value, it suggests potential overvaluation or depreciation discrepancy, indicating a need for reassessment or negotiation in transactions. Contact a professional mechanic for a more precise quote for your car. 

    How can I track the value of my car?

    If you’re not sure what your car’s value is to begin with, it’s hard to know how much money its book value might impact its resale price.

    All vehicles depreciate at varying rates, with no rule of averages accurately describing any one car’s changing value. However, with Motorway’s Car Value Tracker, you can get free, reliable monthly price alerts for up to six vehicles at once. 

    Follow changes to your car’s value to choose the best time to sell, and make informed choices about investments in your car’s maintenance.

    Ready to sell your car?

    Want to read more about owning, valuing, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from depreciation to maintaining your car’s value. Understand your car’s worth in the wider market.